I think there’s an unspoken statute of limitations for things you accidentally steal from your friends. You know how it is, you borrow a friend’s shirt one day, you mean to wash it and give it back. Suddenly six months have gone by and you’re unpacking in your new apartment in a different city and you come across that shirt and you think, is it really worth mailing it back? I’ll just give it to her the next time I see her. Except, the next time you see her isn’t until someone is getting married and you’re so stressed about gifts and travel plans and horrible bridesmaids dresses that you forget all about the shirt. Then you get back home, you see the shirt, you do a face palm slap, and you think, I’ve really got to remember to take that with me the next time I’m going to see her. Except, the next time you see her is when there’s a funeral, and the last thing on your mind is your friend’s shirt. Unless it’s your friend’s funeral, at which point you’re pretty much out of luck.
When you’ve borrowed an item and you forget (or “forget”) to give it back, I propose a time limit of three years during which time, if the item is demanded, you must return it as expeditiously as possible. If the item is not demanded within those three years, you’re free to consider it yours and keep it guilt-free. I have taken it upon myself to test this theory before making a public proposal, because that’s just how much I care. Also because I kept forgetting to give the things back. The statute of limitations has passed on each of the items in the test group, and I now consider them mine. Here’s what I accidentally stole from my friends:
- A rock band T-shirt: this is the quintessential item that you borrow and never end up returning, partly because you honestly don’t remember and partly because you subconsciously don’t want to remember because the T-shirt is so cool. Mine is from the now-disbanded Marvelous 3, the most rawk-tastic band around when I was in college, and since they’re no longer together, there will be no more T-shirts ever. The lead singer was Butch Walker, who is still around and making music (which is also rawk-tastic), but it’s not quite the same when you can’t just blow off your classes, drive for hours to some skanky club, and get back late afternoon the next day just in time to take a Phenomenology exam you didn’t study for. Sorry, Michelle: the shirt’s mine now!
- Books: another very common entry on the list of Stuff People Borrow And Never End Up Giving Back. At least one friend of mine has a policy of never lending books to anyone, even immediate relatives, for this very reason. I borrowed 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez from an ex-boyfriend who, if I’m honest, I’m pretty sure had never read it and only kept it around to impress chicks. I wasn’t dating him for his mind. Anyway, I read the book and it was life-alteringly fantastic, which frankly my ex-boyfriend wasn’t, so I kept the book and got rid of him.
- Lipstick: this one is mostly limited to women, though not always. There’s a magic shade for each woman, and there’s no predicting it based on coloring or skin tone or anything. You could have identical twins and each would have a different magic shade of lipstick. It’s the shade that, when you put it on, it doesn’t just suit you perfectly, it makes you feel beautiful. It gives you confidence just to know you’re wearing it. When you go to replace it, it will inevitably have been discontinued. I borrowed a tube of lipstick from a friend and it was my magic shade. She let me use it for a long time because it’s part of the Girlfriend Code to help your girlfriends look fabulous, and eventually I think we both forgot it wasn’t originally mine. I still have it, though there isn’t much left, because I’ve been hoarding it for things like dates where the guy actually takes me to a nice place. As you can tell by the fact that there’s still some left, that doesn’t happen very often. But when it does, I’m ready.
So here it is, my confession: I accidentally steal things from friends. To be fair, though, they accidentally steal things from me, too. It’s kind of nice, really. When you’ve all been friends long enough, your stuff tends to end up mixed together through some sort of friendship diffusion effect. You’re over for dinner, and you comment on your friend’s candlesticks, and then you both squint at them and realize at the same moment–they used to be yours! That’s OK, though, because you borrowed the necklace you’re wearing from her five years ago. It all works out in the end. Man, it feels good to get that off my chest!